"Wo Hop in Chinatown on Mott St."
Shooter Jennings - Singer/Songwriter
That word sums up how we feel about Chinese food. When we first thought up of ChowFu, the idea was to share our favorite Chinese recipes with all of our friends and family. Shooter helps us realize that dream by picking a legendary restaurant in the old school Chinatown of NYC. Wo Hop. Now, Wo Hop is less authentic Chinese and more "A Christmas Story" Chinese, but the nostagia from that subterranean dungeon with its faded wallpaper of celebrity photos inspires us to share seven of our go-to Cantonese dishes.
We don't do a lot of Americanized Chinese at ChowFu, despite our affinity for Panda Express and MSG. But 17 Mott Street is the stuff of legends. There are two Wo Hops, right next to one another. 17 Mott is the one in the basement, serving Americanized Chinese food since the 1930s. You heard right, over 75 freakin' years. "An authentic taste of an inauthentic past" is how The New York Times describes Wo Hop. Oh sure, their sister restaurant next door serves authenic cantonese dishes, but no one goes to that one. You don't go to Wo Hop unless you want cornstarch thickened sauces slathered over questionable cuts of meat. And yes, it's cash only.
We have with a high degree of certainty determined that Wo Hop is the closest thing most of us will ever come to regarding time travel. And to help bring a time machine into your own home, we've compiled a list of handy ingredients that are very important when building out a Chinese Pantry. Have you ever wondered how chinese restaurants can bring food to your table seconds after you order from their encyclopedic (sometimes unappetizingly sticky) menu?
It's because chinese cooking is 90% prep and 10% stirring things around a wok. To become a master at chinese cuisine requires stocking your pantry with the right ingredients. Sure, you can look up the receipe you want and just buy everything on the required ingredients list. But by having a handful of items, those that come up time and again in chinese cooking, a simple meal can be made without requiring much forethought.
In researching what these key items are, we relied on the experts in chinese cuisine. In particular, three of our favorite books on the topic.
These books heavily inflence many of the recipes you see on ChowFu, and we wanted to know what the key ingredients were that make up the dishes in these books. To accomplish this, we decomposed the dishes and took a look inside. [Note: The link provided is an affiliate link to Amazon. If you want to help support ChowFu.co and subsidize the cost of running our website, just click on the link above when you do your regular Amazon shopping. It comes at no cost to you and we get some credit from Amazon for the referral! Furthermore, we only link to items we own and highly recommend.]
|Ginger||43%||Peanut Oil||49%||Soy Sauce||65%|
|Light Soy Sauce||41%||Sesame Oil||47%||Wine||61%|
|Sesame Oil||34%||Shaoxing Wine||47%||Spring Onion||55%|
|Garlic||33%||White Pepper||47%||Sesame Oil||52%|
|Chicken Stock||30%||Spring Onion||44%||Ginger||49%|
|Shaoxing Wine||28%||Oyster Sauce||34%||Soup Stock||29%|
|Potato Flour||25%||Light Soy Sauce||33%||Chicken||18%|
|Chinkian Vinegar||21%||Garlic||32%||Egg White||15%|
|Sichuan Pepper||20%||Cornstarch||27%||Brown Vinegar||14%|
|White Pepper||17%||Chicken Stock||26%||Dried Shiitake Mushrooms||14%|
|Chili Oil||15%||Double Dark Soy Sauce||24%||Ham||14%|
|Dark Soy Sauce||14%||Rice Vinegar||22%||Bamboo Shoot||13%|
|Sichuan Chili Bean Paste||9%||Baking Soda||12%||Flour||12%|
|Red Bell Pepper||8%||Bamboo Shoot||11%||Garlic||11%|
|Dried Chilies||7%||Dried Shiitake Mushrooms||11%||Shrimp||11%|
|Dried Shiitake Mushrooms||7%||Water Chestnuts||11%||Star Anise||11%|
|Fermented Black Beans||7%||Rice Wine||10%||Brown Peppercorn||10%|
There's a lot of not so subtle differences between the recipes in these books, but for now that is beyond the scope of this blog. We will revisit this dataset with a future article to further delve into the makings of a chinese dish. In the meantime, we have generated the ten most important ingredients (besides Salt, Sugar, and Cooking Oil) that you should have in your Chinese Pantry:
Most of these Top Ten ingredients should be found in your local grocery store, with the possible exception of Shaoxing Wine. If not, a trip to Chinatown in the closest big city should be able to get you some excellent deals on these ingredients.